Originally published on Niti Central as a follow up to the tailpiece in this post:
You perhaps meet with them every single day. Some of them work for you while some others offer services to you. Social distance notwithstanding, many of them are an integral part of your daily life -from driving you around to fixing things for you. They are not the UPA’s aam admi. They care about LPG subsidy being withdrawn far more than they care about NREGA wages.
Some of them take home as much as you do albeit putting far more hours and perhaps not paying any of the taxes. They can match you on your consumerism toe to toe. They may not share your sensibilities and tastes but they are hungry to walk up the ladder putting in far more hours than you on any given day.
More than anything else, at the heart of their aspirations is the deep-rooted motivation to invest for their child’s education.
Meet the “neo-aspirational” class.
In many ways the battle for 2014 could end up becoming an electoral game of numbers on who matters more – the UPA’s aam admi that cares only for the safety net of entitlements OR the “neo aspirational” class that is impatient to climb the Ladder of Opportunity while enjoying the comfort of the safety net.
To best appreciate these questions, consider the following data points from the Niti Digital Gujarat survey.
- 75% of the voters surveyed were below the age of 40
- Only 13% of those surveyed belonged to the highest socio-economic category in Urban areas and only 9% in the rural areas
- Yet the Congress commands only 13% commitment from the bottom-most socio-economic category in urban pockets and 15% commitment in rural pockets.
So who are these voters who, despite being profiled under the lower to mid socio-economic categories, have strong commitment towards the BJP and are mostly young?
The survey data on how the voters’ consume mass media is most interesting when one looks at it across the socio-economic categories. An overwhelming majority (2/3 or more) across the lower to middle socio-economic categories get their primary information from television and newspapers. Only exception to this is the bottom rung in the rural areas. These have an overwhelming majority but no access to any kind of media. 70 per cent of all voters surveyed owned a television while nearly half of them owned agricultural land. 97 per cent had access to electricity.
The regional cluster of Amreli, Bhavnagar, Junagadh and Porbandar offers a good glimpse of the “neo-aspirational” class. While majority of those surveyed were in the mid to low socio-economic categories, a significant concentration was in the mid category (nearly 55 per cent). When one looks at the top concerns for this regional cluster the “neo-aspirational” dynamic becomes clear. Inflation tops the list but at second place is infrastructure and at third place are job opportunities. The Jamnagar, Rajkot and Surendranagar cluster, that shares similar characteristics, had job opportunities ranking at a close fourth place. Surprisingly in the Dahod, Panchmahals and Sabarkantha cluster where there was a significant concentration of lowest rung of rural socio economic categories, the concern over Job Opportunities came in second place.
It is this “neo-aspirational” class’ hunger for job opportunities and infrastructure that is shaping a different kind of electoral discourse where development and economic growth are viewed as essential to the ladder of opportunity while concerns over inflation manifest into the desire for a subsidy-oriented safety net. This is markedly different from the UPA’s aam admi rhetoric which is all about imaginary rights and entitlements from NREGA to Food Security with the lure of cash transfers. The key difference is that the neo-aspirational class is far more impatient to climb the ladder of opportunity rather than militate like the UPA’s aam admi for a safety net woven out of rights and entitlements. The anger against UPA’s corruption is also reflection of this impatience.
It is this neo-aspirational class that has become the mainstay for the BJP in Narendra Modi’s Gujarat. Just as the UPA attempted to carve out a universal constituency with the aam admi label with its Rights based Entitlement agenda, what we are witnessing here is a counter constituency carved out by Narendra Modi with a Development plus Entitlements agenda.
This counter constituency is as universal as the aam admi cutting across caste groups and urban/rural divide. The most redeeming aspect of this counter constituency that is Young and Impatient is that it may render caste based vote banks marginal and irrelevant. A particularly interesting aspect as was evident from data in some of the regional clusters is the number of Youth and Women who fit the “neo aspirational” label. It is to this “neo aspirational” class that Narendra Modi’s electoral campaign rhetoric is targeted towards. Campaign rhetoric that may at times appear to be crass to urban elitist drawing room sensibilities but then the “neo aspirational” class is hardly made up of “People like us”.
Come 2014 it is this neo aspirational class that may just pip the UPA’s aam admi at the husting with their impatience for growth and development while gladly pocketing direct cash.
Filed under: betrayal of aam admi, Gujarat Polls 2012, Narendra Modi, Neo Aspirational class, Neo Middle Class, New Middle Class, Two Indias, UPA-II Critical Appraisal